Perfectionism in ADHD


I know that this surprises a LOT of people who are learning about ADHD, but yes perfectionism is one of the coping mechanisms that ADHDers tend to develop. The problem with ADHDers is that we have a unique style of perfectionism that tends to magnify our differences and justify our walls of awful rather than dealing with them.

The ADHD Style of Perfectionism

So how can someone who is constantly unable to finish tasks and is very easily distracted become perfectionistic? There are a few branches of perfectionism in ADHD that tend to come together and tend to add to our "Wall of Awful".

ADHDers tend to have perfectionism that prevents the starting of tasks. Ever heard an artist say "I have to be in the right mood"? THAT is perfectionism that hits ADHDers! The stars must be aligned, everything must be perfectly set up, and if anything doesn't feel JUST right... NOPE. Not happening.

Another big ADHD perfectionism flaw- if it isn't perfect, it isn't done. Again, think of the artist that doesn't want anyone to see his work because it isn't finished... the problem is that it's done really well and was due last Thursday, but "it's not good enough".

If I can't do it perfectly, I won't start. ADHDers are often afraid that their work will make them rejected by others if it isn't good enough.

Cognitive Distortion

All of these things working together are part of the reason we build our "Walls of Awful" so much faster than the people around us. The cognitive distortion is that "something done badly is worse than not doing it at all." This can be true for some things, like building a roller coaster, but most of the time, only filling half the dishwasher because I don't have a full load is okay. Making a pizza in the oven instead of a gourmet 5-course meal is okay. Taking a shower while laying down IS OKAY! If you're improving the world around you by breaking rules THAT DON'T ACTUALLY EXIST, it's okay.

How do we fight it?

We're gonna break some non-rules and decide what in our lives is an actual safety/job security/legal requirement, and then rebuild all the other rules that surround our lives. Here are a few examples of the "rules" we have broken at our house:

1) A Stay at Home Mom can't have a regular house cleaner.

WHY is this even a rule??? I don't know. We have a fantastic cleaner that comes 2x a month and deep cleans everything so I don't have to panic about how long it was since I mopped the floors or dusted the living room. It's been done recently enough that CPS isn't coming and that's what matters.

2) Don't throw away your 7-year-old's work in front of them.

This is more of a bend than a break, we have a place where my son's schoolwork goes to be sorted, and at the end of the week, we go through it together. He can keep 1 thing from the week (of course I love them so much I can't decide but the counter is getting too full..) and the rest is gone. At each report card, I thin out the rest and keep 2-3 things that are the best or have shown the most growth.

3) Daily beauty routine

OUT! Not happening. It's an hour of my time every day that I'm never getting back, and I'm going to OBSESS about every little flaw I saw in the mirror. NOPE. I wash and moisturize my face every other day-ish and trim my nails when they need it. If I go out somewhere special I'll do my full face, but otherwise... no.

What are the "rules" that you break?

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